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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Corruption hurts border trade: PM

Corruption hurts border trade: PM

Hun Sen vows to fire anyone operating illegal checkpoints

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered provincial governors in border areas to make all efforts to assist small traders involved in cross-border commerce with Thailand and Vietnam. The premier's instructions follow complaints from struggling traders who have said in recent weeks that they are facing renewed hindrances from illegal checkpoints at border crossings.

"Don't make obstacles for traders trying to sell their wares to neighbouring countries," Hun Sen said, at the close Thursday of a conference at the InterContinental Hotel, referring to the practice of some corrupt border officials to take bribes to ensure passage of goods.

He said he would sack officials up to and including the level of provincial governors and four-star generals if they or their staff were found to be involved in corrupt activities such as operating illegal checkpoints.

"I will not keep one person whose misbehaviour causes the destruction of the livelihoods of other people," he said. "You must appreciate the demanding living conditions of people and must not take bribes when they try to trade their products."

Chieng Am, the governor of Svay Rieng province, which borders Vietnam, said he would ensure Hun Sen's instructions were followed. But he added that the lack of a market meant the amount of commerce between traders in his province and those in Vietnam was small - villagers sold just a small portion of their rice harvest and chickens across the border.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said late last year that official trade figures between Cambodia and Vietnam stood at US$768 million in imports and $135 million exports to Vietnam. Those figures exclude small-scale cross-border trade.

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